The University Park Undergraduate Association met for its weekly meeting with the full assembly in the HUB on Wednesday night, which was capped off with a lively yet generally unproductive discussion on a potential smoke-free campus policy.
In contrast with what was to come, funding for the annual Mental Health Awareness Week, the single piece of legislation on last night’s agenda, passed with ease. Representative Kyra Rogan introduced said Bill, which included a schedule of the week and an overview of the events. This year, in addition to flyers around campus, UPUA will give out stress balls and ID holders that include the contact information for CAPS and the slogan “We Are Enough.” The Bill ultimately passed unanimously, with one abstention. It was certainly a winning day for mental healthcare at Penn State.
In her weekly report, President Emily McDonald mentioned a productive meeting with the Borough Roundtable (including a discussion on THAW, the town-and-gown planned State Patty’s Day replacement) and the new UHS advisory board that will meet monthly and discuss general health initiatives.
The assembly confirmed new At-Large representative Jorge Zurita-Coronado by a 30-4 vote. Zurita-Coronado said his passion is what set him apart from the other candidates. Speaker Emily Miller attested to that and said his drive and eagerness to get going right away was something that struck the selection committee.
Following the full assembly meeting, the group held a Committee of the Whole — essentially, an open discussion — to discuss smoking and drinking policies on campus. Speaker Emily Miller reminded the Assembly this was not to take an official position, but to “see the direction we want to head in on these issues.”
The Committee of the Whole ultimately ended up being an absurd amount of back and forth that seemed to actually reverse a lot of the work it did on a smoke-free campus last semester, in which Resolution 47-09, the Kathleen Purcell Clean Air Bill, was heard. It used extensive research and data to charge the university with reviewing the effects of cigarette smoke on campus in order to reevaluate current smoking policies at Penn State with the possibility of a smoke-free campus in mind. Whatever progress was made then was undone tonight after members of the assembly questioned if this was even a feasible issue to discuss. This, despite the fact that majority of Penn State’s Big Ten counterparts have already enacted smoke free policies.
And while getting the ball rolling on initiatives for the future is all well and good, UPUA’s term (April to April) is more than half over, and it seems like there haven’t been as many tangible wins as in previous years. There are lots of discussions, roundtables, task forces, and promises of glory to come, but very little concrete progress to hang a hat on, with the exception of the annual initiatives started by student government leaders of the past. Bigger picture/multi-year projects notwithstanding, the Tenth Assembly’s legacy rests on how many — or how few — of these initiatives can come together by April.
We’ll be back next week for more of the same.